Jim Catfish Hunter
Summary of the life and baseball accomplishments of Jim "Catfish" Hunter including career statistics and awards.
James Augustus Hunter was born on April 8, 1946 in Hertford, North Carolina. He was the youngest of eight children born to Abbott and Millie Hunter, who were sharecroppers. As a boy Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing baseball with his brothers. While attending Perquimans High School, Hunter excelled in a variety of sports. He was a successful linebacker and offensive end in football as well as a shortstop, cleanup batter, and pitcher in baseball. His pitching skills brought major league baseball scouts to Hertford to see him play. During his senior year of high school, Hunter was injured in a hunting accident leading to the loss of his little toe and had 30 shotgun pellets lodged in his foot. After the accident, Hunter was somewhat limping and his major league prospects were jeopardized in the eyes of many teams. However, the Kansas City Athletics had faith in the young pitcher and offered Hunter a contract.
Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City team, gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish." Hunter's first major league victory came on July 27, 1965 in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. In 1966 and 1967 Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team. In 1968, the Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland and on May 8th of that year Hunter pitched the first perfect game in the American League since 1922. He continued winning more and more games and in 1974 he received the Cy Young Award and was named Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. While with the Athletics Hunter amassed some very impressive statistics: 4 years with at least 20 wins, 4 World Series wins with no losses and a league leading earned run average of 2.49. After a contract dispute with Finley in 1974, Hunter left the Athletics for the New York Yankees.
When Hunter signed with the Yankees in 1975, he became the highest paid pitcher in baseball with a contract for $3 Million. He won over 20 games that year and was also named to the All-Star team for the 7th and 8th time in 1975 and 1976. The Yankees won three straight pennants with Hunter from 1976 until 1979. In 1978 Hunter was diagnosed with diabetes. Hunter waited until his 5-year contract with the Yankees had expired as he had planned and then retired to spend more time with his family. He denied that he had any problems with his arm at the time he retired. He went back to farming in Hertford, North Carolina where he grew up. That is where he could hunt and fish happily in the familiar surroundings he so enjoyed in his youth.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He was an effective pitcher because of the precision of his pitching as opposed to his ability to overpower batters with his speed. He had 5 consecutive years in pitching with 20 or more wins and threw 30 complete games in 1975.
To do the things he enjoyed like hunting and fishing. Hunter died on September 9, 1999 at the age of 53 after complications from a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease). He is buried there in the Cedarwood Cemetery in Hertford, North Carolina.